Don’t Get Ahead Of God’s Blessing

When David was settled in his palace, he summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant is out there under a tent!”

Nathan replied to David, “Do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you.”

But that same night God said to Nathan, “Go and tell My servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared: You are not the one to build a house for me to live in.’” (1 Chronicles 17:1-4)

David’s desire to build a home for the Ark of the Covenant was a noble desire, and David’s passion for God was contagious! So much so that Nathan the prophet gave a hearty “Amen!” without a moment’s pause. 

Except no one—not good King David or Nathan the righteous prophet—consulted God about this. 

Nathan had to return to David with God’s word: “You’re not the one to build the Temple.”

Note this—

No matter how noble or God-honoring something sounds to us, God must be the one to give us permission to proceed. 

DON’T say, “God, this is what I’m going to do, please bless it.” 

But DO say, “God, what would You have me do? Because that is what You will bless.”

A Leader’s Priority

But now your kingdom must end…because you have not kept the Lord’s command (1 Samuel 13:14). 

How tragic! 

Saul, as the first king ever of Israel, could have set the standard. He could have raised the bar high. He could have been the measuring stick by which every other king in Israel’s history was judged. But he missed out on all that.

It was not only tragic but short-sighted too. The prophet Samuel told Saul, “How foolish! You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 

Saul’s priority was about appearances. Saul’s priority was about betting on a sure winner. Saul’s priority was about working his agenda.

A mark of a godly leader is one who has made obedience to God’s Word his first priority. 

The psalmist tells us some of the benefits—

  • God’s Word keeps us pure
  • God’s Word keeps us from sin
  • God’s Word is the key to God’s blessings
  • God’s Word strengthens us
  • God’s Word preserves us
  • God’s Word does us good
  • God’s Word keeps us from going astray
  • God’s Word lights our path

Make God’s Word your first—and highest—priority! 

This is part 22 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts on this topic by clicking here.

Religious Boredom

“Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. …

“Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

“We are paying a frightful price for our religious boredom. And that at the moment of the world’s mortal peril.”

—A.W. Tozer, in Man—The Dwelling Place Of God

10 Quotes From “Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice”

I loved the financial insights that John Thornton presented in Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice. The advice is “terrible” in that it flies in the face of conventional financial wisdom and puts it in the proper biblical light. Check out my full review of this book by clicking here.

“As God waits patiently to receive our all, wonder, and appreciation for all He is and does, an idol steps in to accept our applause. Like an insidious illusionist, the idol misdirects our attention to itself. … What does an idol do? Nothing. That’s all an idol can do. Nothing. Nothing but steal God’s glory.”

“Jesus is not trying to impoverish us when He tells us to store up treasures in heaven.”

“Here is where some people mistakenly make it about the money. They wrongly conclude that rich people can’t make it to heaven, but poor people can. This is a grave error. In truth, no one can enter the kingdom of heaven, rich or poor, without God.”

“If we are seeking heaven because our life here is so good that we don’t want it to end, or simply because we don’t want to go to hell, we’ve missed the point. We’ve made the same mistake this young man made [Mark 10]. So doing what Jesus always did, He redirected the young man to the right thing. The greatest good. He redirected the young man to God. Jesus clarifies that no one is good but God Himself. … What makes eternal life good isn’t the length. It’s the company. God Himself is what is good about heaven [John 17:3].”

“Regardless of how much of a blessing of wealth has the potential to be, it becomes a curse for us when it separates us from the love of God.”

“Don’t wrongfully conclude that rich people can’t make it, but poor people can. Or that poor people are godly, but rich people are not. If we do this, we miss the point entirely. We think that Jesus is just calling out rich people. We think He is talking about people’s financial position, when He’s really talking about our heart condition. … At the end of the day, answer to the question ‘Does Jesus want you rich or poor?’ is obvious. The answer is yes! Jesus wants you. And the answer is all about God’s goodness, not ours.”

“The number one theme related to wealth in the Bible is that it is a blessing from God.” 

“Whenever we conclude that the plans we have for our lives are better than the plans God has for us, or that the gifts we have for ourselves are better than His gifts, the false master Money steps up. Money promises to put us in charge. With it, we can smooth the way or save the day. Don’t worry. Be happy. But God has a better plan for our lives. We were made to live for so much more. And He is more. God wants us to understand and know Him, His ‘kindness, justice and righteousness,’ for in these He delights (Jeremiah 9:24). God’s plan is to complete us.”

“Wealth becomes a curse for us when we choose it over God.” 

“In a society where we have taken independence, individual freedom, and self-love to cult status, submission is taboo. We want to be our own master. Money offers us what we want, so we love it or fear it, trading in the true God for a false one. But Jesus shows us we have it all wrong. He shows us that submission to His Father is the only way to be truly free. Free to live life to the full. The only way to live a life that matters is to find our sole purpose in Him.”

3 Manger Lessons

Only Luke uses the Greek word for manger in all of the New Testament, with three of those instances being closely linked with the story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-16).

Luke is a prolific writer, but also a very specific writer. Luke uses more unique Greek words in his two books of the Bible than any other New Testament author. Because Luke is so precise, we need to pause to ask: what message was Luke trying to highlight in the fact that Jesus was born in a manger.

Here are three manger lessons…

  1. The manger shows us God’s PLAN.

The birthplace of Jesus was predicted 700 years before He was born (Micah 5:2). God moved the heart of the most powerful man in the world (Caesar Augustus) to issue a decree that would bring a nearly unknown Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and cause them to cross paths with a bunch of unnamed shepherds.

  1. The manger shows us God’s PRIORITY.

Jesus was not born to a handsome family (Isaiah 53:2), nor was He born to an influential family (Philippians 2:7). If He had been born to the high and mighty class, He would not only be unmoved by the desperate conditions of the least and the lost, but He would also be inaccessible to them.

Think about this—Who would you be more likely to have access to: a King or a peasant? Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:25-28).

  1. The manger shows us God’s PLEASURE.

God is pleased to deliver His good news to the disempowered, the downcast, the over-burdened, the desperate (Luke 2:14; Matthew 11:25-26). And what is this good news? The good news is that Jesus came to make it possible for us to be linked with Him forever! (see Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus was born in a manger to show us that (1) God’s plans always prevail; (2) His priority is to rescue those who are unable to rescue themselves; and (3) He has immense pleasure to yoking us to Him forever and ever! 

May this good news of Christ in manger bring you joy this Christmas season!

We also looked at some other powerful Advent stories in our Carols Of Christmas series. You can read about the lessons from O Come Emmanuel and Silent Night! Holy Night!

Ordering Your Private World (book review)

You can look all neat and tidy on the outside, you can talk a good game and even have some short-term success. But if you aren’t growing on the inside, all that good looking outside stuff will eventually come crashing down. This is exactly what Gordon MacDonald addresses in his revised and updated book Ordering Your Private World.

MacDonald shares a quote from Ezra Pound which captures the theme of this book: “If a (person) has not order within him, he cannot spread order about him.” Amen!

Here’s what I love about Gordon MacDonald’s heart. This book is a revised and updated version of his original work. The first edition sold more than a million copies! MacDonald could have sat back and collected his royalty checks, but instead, he has kept growing, kept learning, kept on ordering his own private world, and wasn’t content until he could share his ever-growing insights with a whole new generation.

MacDonald is quite candid about the collapse of his own inner world, and how he had to work to restore and rebuild that. Throughout this book you will read more of his personal stories, as well as accounts from historical people (both famous and relatively unknown), and you will learn from numerous biblical examples as well.

Ordering Your Private World will help you reassess your priorities, learn how to take control of your time, help you find the best supports for your inner world, see through a biblical lens, and learn what it truly means to take a rest.

This book will be beneficial for everyone who wants to ensure their inner world is strong enough to support their outer world, but I would especially recommend this book to those in leadership positions. Leaders tend to be much more hard-charging and results-oriented people, and as such may neglect their own inner world. But whoever you are, this book will be a valuable part of your life.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

8 Quotes From Josh McDowell On God’s Ideal For Sex

All of these quotes are taken from Josh McDowell’s book 10 Commitments For Dads

“Our desire and need for intimacy and relationship is rooted in the image of God as One (see Deuteronomy 6:4). Marriage and marital sex between a man and woman reflects His nature of oneness and unity.”

“Human sexuality involves every aspect of a person’s being—and sex is meant to connect us on every level.”

“Respecting the boundaries of sexual morality and the ‘stop’ signs for extramarital and premarital sex does bring protection and provision. Protection from: guilt, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual insecurity, emotional distress. Provision for: spiritual rewards, optimum atmosphere for child-raising, peace of mind, trust, true intimacy.”

“Sex as God designed it was meant to be lived within the context of healthy boundaries…. Following God’s design then allows a couple to experience the beauty of sex as it was meant to be experienced.”

“Purity is God’s boundary that provides for a maximum sex life and protects us from the negative consequences of sexual immorality [1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7].”

“Where did sexual purity come from? From the very character of God Himself. God says, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). ‘All who have this I hope [of being like Christ when He returns] in Him purify themselves, just as [God] is pure’ (1 John 3:3).”

“We were created by God with the desire and longing to be that ‘one and only’ to someone else. That desire came directly from the very nature of God Himself … ‘He is the faithful God…’ (Deuteronomy 7:9).”

“Because true love’s priority is to protect and provide for the one being loved, God’s kind of love will not do things that are harmful to the security, happiness, and welfare of another person.”

You can check out my review of 10 Commitments For Dads here. I also shared some other quotes from this helpful book here.

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